Jasmine's first Christmas without a home

Jasmine's first Christmas without a home

27 November 2019

JASMINE Carbery is one of the many unseen homeless people in Northern Ireland.

She looks like any other young woman you may notice walking along Market Street in Downpatrick — bright, full of life and full of chat.

Yet, at the young age of 21, she will spend Christmas at the Simon Community house in Saul Street away from her family for the first time.

She moved into Saul Street in August after staying in the Newry Simon Community hostel a few months before that.

Jasmine is one of three young women living in the Saul Street house. So far she is doing well and enjoying her new life in Downpatrick.

Jasmine was asked her to leave her home earlier this year. Her parents have not been in her life for some time.

“Living in Downpatrick is alright. I’ve actually made a few friends outside the hostel which makes me happy,” said Jasmine.

“There was a breakdown in the family relationship. I was working but then I needed to have some serious surgery on the back of my neck and I wasn’t able to work. That’s what led to the breakdown and I was asked to leave.”

What Jasmine says next is said in a calm, non-emotive manner.

“Because I hadn’t been working, I didn’t have much money to contribute to the house. Also because I have two rare medical conditions, I had been on preion painkillers for them for over a year now. I’m actually addicted to them. It was probably another factor in why I was asked to leave.”

Jasmine was born with what’s known as a Chiari malformation, a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal as well as Syringomyeli, another condition where a cyst or cavity forms in the spinal canal.

Her recent surgery was to correct the growth of her brain into the top of her spine.

She adds: “While I was living in Craigavon, I was going out with a guy who was a drug dealer but I had never taken drugs before that. When I became homeless, I started taking drugs, mainly cocaine and tablets, as they were all around me.

“I suppose it’s a bit of an escape as well as many people see homelessness as rock bottom. But the prescription painkiller addiction would be my biggest problem and I suffer really badly with my mental health.”

Jasmine relationship with her relatives is still fragile, although there has been some infrequent communication between them.

Living in a hostel has had some high and low points for her.

“Simon Community hostels are used as bail hostels but they are not exclusive to just prisoners,” she said. “I have never been in jail, never been arrested and would be classed as a vulnerable person.

“You don’t really know who you are living with in a hostel as there’s all sorts of people. That makes you more apprehensive. 

“My experience is that there have been predominantly male residents in the two hostels I have lived in. I was the only girl in about 12-13 fellas in the Newry hostel’s main building, so that took a bit of getting used to and was quite scary. Here is smaller, so it’s not as bad.

“But the staff are amazing here. They go above and beyond their job description for you. They will sit and talk with you, watch the TV with you, play a board game, cook for us, everything we need.”

Jasmine left school at 16 with some qualifications and has been told she is bright, but she has not been able to complete other educational courses, mostly due to her medical condition.

However, she has recently been working with the human rights charity, Participation and the Practice of Rights, to help others know their entitlement in seeking social housing.

She is being supported in the hostel for her problems and will be soon working with an Community Addiction worker.

Jasmine has some goals for the New Year ahead which she hopes to achieve, again with the support of the Simon Community team.

“I would love to get my own place, that’s my number one priority,” she said. “I would like not to be taking drugs and I also would like to reconnect with my family and get back into some education.”